As one of the most popular sports in the world, it’s likely that most boys and girls have grown up kicking a ball about with their friends. For some, it’s just a passing hobby that may be forgotten about when they reach adulthood, but for others, the love of the beautiful game only grows stronger. Watching their favourite team play may satisfy the need for football, but for some people, playing themselves becomes a dream.
So what do you do when you decide that you don’t want to just watch, you want to play as well?
Where to start
The first step to playing regular football is to make sure that your fitness levels can handle it. A full game can not only be extremely tiring, it can put a lot of pressure on your joints, particularly in the knees and legs, if you haven’t trained for it. Begin by taking it easy and then slowly build it up until you feel that your body can handle a full game.
It may be that you are starting to play football as a way to stay healthy. Whilst pushing yourself is a great way to pass any physical hurdles, it’s important to know what your body is capable of. Further strenuous activity could easily cause you to injure yourself and put a significant amount of stress on your cardiovascular system. Don’t think you can play a full match immediately, instead train regularly to build up the strength in your muscles and ligaments, with the goal of becoming a regular player.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that because you hit the gym or go running, you will be able to immediately compete, as even those who exercise regularly will find that they need to build up their agility before playing. Your body is worked differently with each exercise, so it’s unlikely to be prepared for the twisting and turning that football entails.
Finding a team
There are thousands of teams out there, and with many of them always looking for new additions, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a team to play with. Think about the type of football you want to play - 5 a side, 11 a side, futsal or freestyle. There are also leagues out there which can cater for specific skill sets, such as walking, disability and kid’s leagues. The FA, Scottish FA, Irish FA and the FAW Trust in Wales can all help you find a local league based on your age and abilities. So whatever your fitness level, whether you are male or female, there will be a league that will suit you.
What equipment you will need
Having the right equipment is essential to ensure that you don’t cause yourself injury. Football boots are a must, but you should research them before deciding on a pair just because you favourite player endorses them. Think about the surface that you will be regularly playing on - is it going to be a professional pitch, a boggy playing field, an indoor setting or astro turf? All of these require a different type of sole, so make sure you go for the boot most suitable to the surface.
Shin pads are also a must. Anyone who has played a game of football without them is unlikely to forget them again. Wearing shin guards means that you are less likely to suffer from fractures to the lower leg, and so the sizing and material is important. The same applies to gloves if you are a goalkeeper, to help prevent any hand or wrist injuries.
If you are joining a team, it may have its own kit which usually consists of a shirt, shorts and socks. This may be given free of charge or you may have to pay a deposit to loan it. If you are just getting started and playing with your friends, look for something similar to wear to help keep you cool during the match.
How to avoid injuries
At some point, most players will suffer an injury caused on the pitch, but thankfully, most of these are relatively minor. Health and safety is highly important when playing football and so you should always know what you can do to prevent an injury. Sometimes, it is a case of using common sense, such as removing all jewellery before a game, whilst other times, it is simply making sure that a full warm up has been completed.
It may be an inconvenience at times, but a warm up is essential to help prepare your body for what’s to come. A regular warm up routine can help your body become more resistant to certain injuries, especially when you know which parts of your body will be affected whilst playing. However, areas that are often worked harder during a game, such as the hamstrings and glutes, may be subject to muscle imbalances and so concentrating on them during exercise and warm up routines can help prevent any issues.
Whilst it is important for the whole team to get a good core warm up, other exercises are beneficial depending on the position you play. Midfielders often cover the most ground on the pitch, so training to build up your endurance is one way of helping to prevent overdoing it. All players should practice thorough stretching to prepare their muscles and finish by completing a cool down afterwards.
The key to playing football lies in your fitness levels. You don’t have to have the same agility and endurance as Eden Hazard, and instead, you must know your limits and ensure that your body is fully recovered before attempting to play again. Wearing the correct equipment is essential for preventing injury and regular training can help prepare your body for what’s to come. When you combine it all together, there’s nothing to stop you from dreaming of the Premier League.